Spreading the word through hip hop – that’s the goal of young Catholic priest Jakub Bartczak, a rising celebrity on the Polish rap scene.
And it seems to be working. Father Bartczak says this unconventional approach has helped him reach out to young people in his hometown of Wroclaw.
“To many young people, a priest is a serious guy, they’re afraid of talking to him. Through hip-hop, we have similar interests, that helps them find the courage to talk to me. What surprises me, although I always knew this, is that many people who like hip-hop are actually very serious about their lives,” says Father Bartczak.
He grew up in one of the city’s many community housing blocks, when Poland was still a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union, and knows how the youths who live there feel.
“I want to invite people to the faith, or simply to ask about God. Young people nowadays are often very busy, they’re looking for something of value in their lives but they have no time, and perhaps no opportunity. I would like to remind them that they can take the first step. My music is not something far-reaching, but it encourages people to take the first step,” he says.
Father Bartczak’s lyrics contain more questions about religion than answers – he wants to encourage young and old to turn to faith to find what he calls “a way forward”. Fellow rapper Piotr Biernat says the priest is brave to diverge from clerical norms.
“Nowadays it is very hard to admit to faith, but rap has always been for the brave, no matter what they talk about, whether it’s religion or living in the blocks. There is no place for weak people in rap music,” says the rapper.
Father Bartczak also enjoys the backing of fellow priests for his music which has helped reach out to young people.
His clip 'Holy Bible'has already got more than 860,000 clicks on YouTube – not bad for a Polish hip hop video with religious content.